Hidden Treasures of St. Louis

Tuesday April 16, 2013

By Mark

St. Louis is an amazing destination for visitors and residents alike. So many outstanding attractions to choose from such as the Gateway Arch, City Museum, the Magic House and even the world-famous zoo, just to name a few. But one of the most exciting things is uncovering a destination’s hidden gems - tantalizing places you may not have heard about … but are just waiting to be discovered. From a museum devoted to art celebrating man’s best friend to the World Chess Hall of Fame, St. Louis is chockfull of hidden gems! Here’s a peek at just a few of those gems:

Why visit: Tucked away in a beautiful park in suburban Ballwin, MO, the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog houses the world’s finest collection of art devoted to the dog. Here you’ll find on display more than 700 original paintings, drawings, watercolors, prints, sculptures, bronzes, porcelain figurines and decorative arts objects - all depicting man’s best friend. A gift shop carries many dog-related items including some that are unique to the museum.

Don’t miss: The museum’s All-Star Dogs Hall of Fame with colorful wall murals painted by Stephen Hubbell--and the fact that you can bring Fido along to the museum which provides doggy treats, fresh water and a place for him to exercise. Dogs must be obedience-trained and on a leash.

If you go:
American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog
1721 S. Mason Road
St. Louis, MO
Admission: $5, adults
$2.50, seniors
$1, children age 5-14
10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday
1-5 p.m., Sunday

Why visit: The Eugene Field House & St. Louis Toy Museum is a treasure trove of St. Louis and national history--and the building is a national landmark. Built in 1850, it is considered the oldest residence still standing in St. Louis, and it is the last of 12 row houses that stood on the site.

While “Eugene Field” may not be a household word, chances are you may be familiar with one of his poem’s--“Wynken, Blynken and Nod.” Known as the “Children’s Poet,” Field wrote “Christmas Treasure’s,” his first published children’s poem, in St. Louis.

Field was born in the house on South Broadway but lived there only a few years. As the Civil War raged, Roswell Martin Field, Eugene’s father, sent him and his brother to live with an aunt in Massachusetts following their mother’s death.

But the history of the home was not tied solely to Eugene Field. Roswell Field was a St. Louis attorney who formulated the strategy in the famous Dred Scott case. Scott, a slave who sued for his freedom, lost his case with the Supreme Court Chief Justice declaring that no slave could be a U. S. citizen. The case helped precipitate the Civil War. As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation,

The museum’s collections include objects owned by the Field family, items donated to the museum from the period, a toy collection with dolls and toys from the 1790s to the present and a book collection spanning two and a half centuries.

Don’t miss: The display of seven of Eugene Field’s original childhood toys.

If you go:
The Eugene Field House & St. Louis Toy Museum
634 S. Broadway
St. Louis, MO
Admission: $5, adults
$4.50, AAA members
$1, children age 11 and under
Free, children age 3 and under and members of the U. S. military and their families Memorial Day through Labor Day

Why visit: You may learn more about Black History and African-American contributions to the U. S. at the Griot Museum of Black History than you will in many other places. Here you can uncover the facts about slavery in St. Louis’ early days and Missouri’s role in the slave period and learn how York, William Clark’s slave, was a valuable member of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The museum’s exhibits help to illustrate how some local figures impacted national events, Deputy Director Erica Neal says. “We tell the stories about African-Americans who are local but their impact is national in scope.” For example, protests by St. Louis activist Percy Green helped open the door for the hiring of African-Americans in certain areas of employment. Also highlighted are Dr. Martin Luther King’s little-known visits to St. Louis with Rev. Earl Nance Sr.

Don’t miss: Part of a slave ship on display that lets you see firsthand the harrowing time captured Africans experienced on their way to America. “It gives people a better understanding of what that experience was like,” Neal says.

If you go:
Griot Museum of Black History
2505 St. Louis Ave.
St. Louis, MO
10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday
Admission: $7.50, adult
$3.75, children age 12 and under

Why visit: Enter the fascinating world of miniatures at the Miniature Museum of St. Louis. The museum is among only a handful of miniature museums that exist in the United States. Many miniature creators and collectors have loaned or donated their works to the museum. And its gift shop features miniature furniture, flowers, dolls, lighting and accessories of all kinds. “You want it; we’ve got it,” says Executive Director Fay Zerbolio. The museum is appropriate for all ages, but younger visitors can enjoy an area where they can play with dollhouses. The museum sponsors two special events each year--a “Miniatures Only” Garage Sale and the Gateway Miniature Fair. This year’s fair will be April 27-28 at the Sheraton Westport Chalet Hotel, 191 West Port Plaza, St. Louis.

Don’t miss: A replica of the “Old Cathedral” (St. Louis IX Basilica. Dr. Richard Wunderlich, a St. Louis dentist, built the replica on a scale of three-eights inch to the foot with golf tees, hypodermic needles, tongue depressors, dental bus, antique buttons, pill bottles, Christmas decorations and other items.

If you go:
Miniature Museum of Greater St. Louis
4746 Gravois Ave.
St. Louis, MO
11 a.m.-4 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday
1-4 p.m., Sunday
Admission: $5; $4 for those 62 and older and students 13-18; $2, children 2-12
Save $1 on admission with a coupon available on the museum’s website

Why visit? This world-class gem located in St. Louis’ energetic Central West End neighborhood, features the U.S. and World Chess Halls of Fame in a large former residence across the street from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center.

Here you’ll find information on everything you’ve ever wanted to know about chess. Permanent and temporary exhibits inform about great players, historic games and chess’ cultural history.

Current temporary exhibits include “Everybody’s Game: Chess in Popular Culture (closes April 14); “Power in Check: Chess and the American Presidency” (closes April 21) and “Bill Smith: Beyond the Humanities” (closes Sept. 15).

Don’t miss: The outdoor chessboard where you can enjoy a game of chess “plein air” style during the hours the museum is open.

If you go:
World Chess Hall of Fame
4652 Maryland Ave.
St. Louis, MO
10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday
10 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursday, Friday
Noon-5 p.m., Sunday
Admission: free but a donation of $3 per person or $5 per family is suggested

Guest Blogger Kathie Sutin a freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri contributed this blog.